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Touting letter triggers Online V High Street agents spat

An online estate agency is accusing a High Street agent of trying to “sabotage” a transaction by sending a touting letter to a vendor.

The letter was sent by Abbey Sales & Lettings, a Suffolk agency, to a vendor who had marketed their property with eMoov. 

The letter was worded to apply to vendors with any online agent and included the paragraph: ”We have found that properties marketed by online agents either sell very quickly (because they are well priced) or they tend to struggle for weeks or month at an end before eventually selling, or in worse case scenarios - not at all.”


The letter then says that without the expertise of a locally-based agent it would be easy for a vendor to become dispirited if the property did not sell rapidly.

It continues: “There is a reason online Estate Agency has not taken off in the same way as ‘online’ has taken off in other industries. This is because there is more to do and it is more involved than people initially think and the lack of detail and human touch all combine to hamper your chances of selling.”

Abbey then makes the vendor a specific offer: “Instruct us on a four week basis and we will discount any fees that you have your your online agent from our sales commission when we sell your property.”

Part of a letter from the vendor to eMoov - shown to Estate Agent Today by the online agency - states that ”It is a blatant attempt to get my business by using scare tactics and basically saying the service you offer is sub standard. ....  If this practice is not against any code of conduct/law it is in my opinion unethical.”

eMoov chief executive Russell Quirk says this is “a rather desperate attempt by a High Street agent to sabotage one of our listings” and adds that the vendor in question sold the property at full asking price within two days of it being listed on eMoov.

However, Abbey has stoutly defended the approach and says this is a case of “eMoov getting their knickers in a twist.”

Abbey’s managing director, Robert Love, told Estate Agent Today that the letter was sent to sellers using online agencies and was “spurred by being contacted by a number of such vendors who were struggling to get sold and lacking contact from their online agent.” 

He insists this is neither a war nor a vendetta on online agents but simply a twist on Abbey’s standard marketing material. 

“We have successfully helped people who have struggled to sell with online agents recently, and wanted to help more if we could. We are sorry if our offer to help was not of interest to him, and that we wish him luck with his move.”

  • Jon  Tarrey

    Sneaky. I don't often agree with Mr Quirk, but on this matter I think he is completely correct.

    Traditional agents always bang on about being totally unthreatened by online agents - they like to say they barely even give them a thought - but this would suggest otherwise. Why go touting, why send such a desperate letter, if you're not a little bit afraid of the competition?

    Hmm, sounds like weasel words from Mr Love. As is always the case with these spats, a move is made and then desperate backtracking is carried out. Ridiculous.

  • icon

    If the shoe was on the other foot - eMoov would have done exactly the same. In fact, it's exactly what online agents have been doing for the past few years 'our service is better than trad agency, here's why...'. So why eMoov are so offended, I'm not sure? It's called estate agent marketing, isn't it?

  • Neil Briggs

    Well said, John. What's good for the goose is good for the gander as the old saying goes. It maybe comes across as a bit underhand and sneaky, but I'm sure eMoov haven't been above such activity in the past. It's called healthy competition. As long as it doesn't get out of hand or cross the line of what is acceptable, I don't see too much of a problem with it.

    I can see why eMoov were upset, but there is also the suspicion that Russell likes to complain about just about everything to keep his and eMoov's name in the headlines. He's very good at it, a consummate self-publicist.

  • icon

    Yes very true, although I only ever see eMoov in the trade headlines, which isn't much use for tapping up new sellers is it?

  • Trevor Mealham

    The new draft code from Trading Standards mentions under the belt marketing methods.

    Part of what the traditional agent has said is opinion. ...... Equally, how often do budget agents have the opinion they can save sellers money.

    Sounds like: Hand bags at dawn

  • icon

    Exactly my point Trevor. All online agents do and say in their advertising is about how they can save sellers money so how can eMoov get all high and mighty over this? Just take a look at some of the 'savings' calculators on online agents' websites!

  • Jeff Djevdet

    Fancy Emoov making an issue of this thereby looking rattled. Surely they are robust enough to handle the odd pot shot?

  • Trevor Mealham

    Fact is that in cases some budgets wouldn't have so much saved sellers money as in fact cost them more.

    There are examples out there where neighboring properties have been sold by 1. a budget agent and the neighboring one by a traditional agent at a much higher price. As such the budget agent has cost the seller a substantial loss.

  • Tim Gorgulu

    Yes, Jeff, I'd be inclined to agree. Making it news just makes eMoov look a little bit petty and easily rattled. If they are doing as well as Russell regularly tells us they are doing, this should be water off a duck's back to them.

    I do get the impression sometimes that Russel and eMoov are a little too sensitive for their own good. They don't mind dishing it out, but they're not so good at getting it back in the other direction. I like Russell. He is, if nothing else, a very entertaining and divisive figure, but I think this news would have been better off kept buried.

  • icon

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